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With love, from Bangladesh to the world: The Dhaka Art Summit 2023

Tsuktiben Jamir

After a hiatus of 3 years owing to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the Asia Society India Centre’s Dhaka Art Caravan bounced back with its popular festival ‘Dhaka Art Summit’ which was hosted for 8 days from the 3rd to 11th of February, 2023, with Diana Campbell as its Chief Curator. For starters, the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is a global, non-profit forum for the study and exhibition of South Asian-inspired art and architecture, with a special focus on Bangladesh. It was founded by the Samdani Art Foundation in 2012 and it is still produced by them in association with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is held every two years at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy; after the pandemic withheld its hosting, the DAS 2023 was its sixth edition and was unveiled with the title ‘বন্যা/Bonna’ which was also the first edition to have a subtitle in Bangla. The artworks of over 120 artists, both local and international, were featured, with the objective of DAS being to encourage the participating foreign artists to have meaningful interactions with Bangladesh and hence connecting Bangladesh to the outside world.

Artworks in display at the Dhaka Art Summit
Courtesy: @asiasocietyic

About the focus on this year’s summit, the Dhaka Art Summit ’23 asserted that “DAS 2023 considers the ways in which we inherit and form vocabularies to understand the world around us and the mistranslation that can ensue when we try to apply these vocabularies to unfamiliar contexts; the same word can migrate from positive to negative connotations and back depending on how and where it travels. Weather and water as shapers of history and culture as well as being metaphors for life in general are viewed in an embodied way through the lens of those who live in Bangladesh, next to the sea and rivers, underneath the storm systems, feeling the wind and rain.”

Caravan Members with Abul Khair, eminent art collector and Chairman of the Bengal Foundation
Courtesy: @asiasocietyic

They furthered this exploration by looking at how the Bengali children experience these phenomena— “palpably but also via the stories passed down through generations”. The goal was to expand transcultural empathy by seeing past the limitations of translation, which often make it difficult to explain the many ways we navigate the world.

The title of the summit itself, ‘Bonna’ had a significant purpose and association with the event. In Bangladesh, the name Bonna is a common name given to young girls and at the same time also means flood. This phenomenon of contrastingly personal, yet universal words or meanings through which the individual connects with the outside world was explored.

Transtidal, Rithika Merchant, 2022, gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper.
Courtesy: Dhaka Art Summit ’23

The versatile assemblage of artists birthed a variety of unique and multifaceted artworks. In the midst of one of South Asia’s most challenging climatic periods, 12 up-and-coming Bangladeshi artists also exhibit their new works as part of the Samdani Art Prize that focused on social, economic, and ecological problems.

All in all, the event was yet again a major success, witnessing thousands of audience members from all over the world. For an event that explored the divine connection of humans and nature as well as the concept of multiple perspectives, it was lauded for its genuine and passionate dive into the Bangladeshi culture.

Symphony of Worlds by Najmun Nahar Keya (2022–23)
Courtesy: Dhaka Art Summit






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